State Rep. Joe Pickett to resign from Texas House after nearly 24 years in office

Citing health issues, the El Paso Democrat announced Saturday that he would step down from his post effective Jan. 4, four days before the start of the next legislative session.

House Transportation Commitee chair Rep. Joe Pickett, D-EL Paso, leads an interim hearing August 30, 2016, at the Texas Capitol. The committee grilled TxDOT director James M. Bass and listened to a Texas Transportation Institute study on ride-hailing companies.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke.

State Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso will leave his post effective Jan. 4.

Pickett, a Democrat, made the announcement Saturday morning that he will step down after having served in the Texas House since 1995. He said in a statement that he learned he had cancer just before the start of the 2017 legislative session and has since sought treatment for it.

“In the last few weeks, I have learned of additional issues I must address,” Pickett said in a statement. “I could probably continue at a reduced work level while undergoing treatment, but I have been there and done that. I need to completely heal this time. I am told I am physically strong enough to hopefully make my recovery quicker than most. My body and mind need a break.”

Pickett didn't face any general election opponents this year, winning re-election in November with 100 percent of the vote. He noted in his statement that he would return recent campaign contributions in light of his upcoming departure from the Legislature.

During the 2017 legislative session, Pickett held the 11th highest seniority in the Texas House and served as chair of the Environmental Regulation Committee. He previously chaired other House committees during his tenure including the Transportation, Defense and Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security and Public Safety committees.

“To the people of El Paso who had confidence in me and supported me for 12 regular sessions and 13 special sessions, Thank you with all of my heart,” Pickett said. “It has been an honor and a privilege serving my community and the State of Texas as a whole. I didn't do it alone, my family and friends were on the journey with me. You know who you are and I thank you all. It has truly been exciting, memorable and a wild ride!”

In a tweet, House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner of Grand Prairie praised Pickett for his “knowledge & expertise on a great number of issues.”

“We will all miss Joe during this next session & will be praying for his speedy & complete recovery,” Turner said.

A fellow El Paso Democrat, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, also offered well wishes.

"I hope Joe is OK, and I just wish him the best," O'Rourke told reporters at the Tornillo migrant facility Saturday afternoon. "We'll reach out to him and just see if there is anything that I can do to be helpful." ​

Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.